Rarely a week goes by without some new poll regarding the shifting religious landscape in America. But when I picked up the latest Christianity Today and reviewed the “Gleanings”, one thing jumped off the page and surprised me. Under the heading “Americans love to switch religious teams” was a sub category labeled those “most likely to become unaffiliated”. It listed the four leading groups as, Congregationalists 28%, Episcopalians 27%, Presbyterians 25% and nondenominational 25%. I wasn’t in the least surprised at the first three, but the last caused me to pause. Why would we (and other nondenonminationals) be losing those raised in our churches at such a high rate. I know this is a catch-all for a lot of various groups, nevertheless look around! Does anyone have an idea why we lose so many of our young? Are there some precautions we can take more than we are doing? Is there some strategy we have overlooked?
I received a call out of the clear blue from a fellow who simply introduced the call with “I am from Indiana and looking for someone to do a wedding in your area.” I suspect that it was a call that is related to the recent Supreme Court ruling regarding same-sex marriage. I replied that I only perform ceremonies for our local members and he promptly hung up. While I have no evidence, I suspect that this is an example of pushing an agenda and let the unsuspecting beware.
August 1, 2015 Walter Palmer is the MN dentist who loves big game hunting and ended up killing one of Kenya’s beloved protected animals – a lion named Cecil. The lion was lured off of his protected game preserve to allow Palmer to kill him using a bow and arrow. His poor shot resulted in the lion being trailed for hours before finally being put down with a rifle. The authorities have arrested his Kenya guide and others involved with the killing of Cecil and USA game management said they will cooperate with Kenya authorities if they choose to extradite Palmer. When word got out, both Kenyans and Americans were outraged. Protesters gather daily outside Palmer’s dentist office in MN.
While I am equally outraged with Palmer’s actions, I am even more aghast at the actions recently revealed by the upper crust of Planned Parenthood. Evidently they have for some time been harvesting aborted baby parts and selling them on the open market. In several released interviews they are seen haggling over the price so as to make the most profit possible. One Planned Parenthood official boasted that with the money she was making she could afford a new Lamborghini. Shock and outrage are feelings too mild and villainy and wickedness are words too kind to describe the actions of these officials of Planned Parenthood. To multiply the evil we simply need to understand that this is a government funded organization. They are using our tax money to fund this treachery.
So while citizens protest the death of Cecil the lion, why is there no hue and cry against PP? Why are there no protests? In another day the Prophet Isaiah described the condition which apparently now exists in America: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!”
The World Almanac and Book of Facts polled 2000 eighth-graders to discover whom they most admired and wanted to be like. Every single person they named was an entertainer or sports figure. There were no politicians, no doctors, no ministers, no statesmen, no authors, and no presidents; if you weren’t an entertainer or sports icon, you weren’t on the list. The list did not contain a single figure who had made a substantial contribution to society. I remember who I most admired when I was in the eighth grade. We had a caring and personable preacher at our church who cared not only about adults but about eighth graders as well. Billy Ringgold had a quick smile and a friendly demeanor. He helped people be better people. Aside from my own dad, he was the one I most admired and wanted to be like. Guess what? I’m still trying. This is Just-A-Minute.
A lot of church members believe that when they’ve gone to church on Sunday, they have done their job as far as being a Christian is concerned. But the truth is that is a very small part of following Jesus. Everywhere we go and all-of-the-time we are either lifting up the name of Jesus to those we meet or we are treading it underfoot. At the work place as well as the church house, we are watched. At a restaurant, at a ball-game, waiting in line at a grocery store, wherever we are, we leave an impression for good or ill. The way we answer the phone, the way we speak to a waitress, the patience we show in heavy traffic, the kindness shown to a child, the sensitivity we give to a patient; all of this speaks louder than an hour we spend at worship. I’m not saying Sunday is unimportant. I am saying that Monday through Saturday count, too. You may be the only Bible many folks will ever read. What will others learn when they read your life? This is Just-A-Minute.
Some time back I opened the USA Today and as I grazed the news I reached the Opinion section. There Amanda Marcotte, one of their regular contributors on pop culture, wrote: “as youthful cohabitation rises, parents should accept it and educate their children on sex.” She used Angelina Jolie as an example who in 2011 shocked her fans telling them she lived with her boyfriend when she was fourteen and planned the same for her daughter. Here we have the nation’s newspaper trumpeting propaganda for younger and younger fornication with the parental stamp of approval. Boys and girls at fourteen years old are not yet out of elementary school. Marcotte’s promised panacea is actually a Pandora’s Box of promiscuousness and perversity. If it is ever opened, as was the closet, we will have a hard time closing it. This is Just-A-Minute.
For decades the granite statue of the virgin Mary over in Ballinspittle, Ireland had only a trickle of visitors. However, for a while now at least tens of thousands of pilgrims thronged their way to this isolated village to view the statue. You see a report was circulated that someone claimed to have seen it move. Then as interest peaked others made the same claim. Ballinspittle is overrunning with crowds and the souvenir shops and street vendors are doing a brisk business. Why do so many flock to these alleged phenomena? It is natural that we all would rather walk by sight than by faith. But the fact is we are called to walk by faith. You don’t need a statue of granite to move to believe. Just make your choice, believe. Trust God, trust Jesus. What do you have to lose? Your sin and guilt and wayward life? But look at what you gain? The richest life that can be lived here and after eternal life beyond. This is Just-A-Minute
Years ago on Art Linkletter’s House Party Art asked a small boy, “What does your mother do?” He replied, “She’s a Sunday School teacher.” Art then asked, “What does she do for fun?” The little fellow didn’t hesitate in answering, “She plays poker and drinks beer!” The audience roared and Art blushed and looked sheepishly about. There have been plenty of Sunday School teachers, deacons, elders, preachers and church members like this one. There are too many casual Christians; they dabble in everything but are not sold on anything. They have a passing acquaintance with the Lord but are not committed to His cause. On Sunday they sing, “My Jesus I love thee, I know thou art mine; for thee all the follies of sin I resign.” But by Monday they have re-signed. This is no time for lukewarm Christianity! It is high time for Christians to get busy being Christians. This is Just-A-Minute.
Some things just don’t mix. They don’t belong together. Light and dark don’t mix; fire and ice don’t mix; oil and water don’t mix; and hypocrisy and discipleship don’t mix. Nevertheless, there is a boundless supply of black-hearted wolves in sheep’s clothing who pass themselves off as part of the Shepherd’s flock. It has always been this way. John wrote three letters in our Bibles and the last is the shortest of the three. In it he mentions two men: Gaius and Diotrephes. They were as different as diamonds and coal. Gaius was a true-hearted and whole-hearted disciple, beloved of God and the apostle. But Diotrephes was a self-seeking, my-way-or-no-way, blackhearted scoundrel, who used his position of leadership to rule-or-ruin, an ecclesiastical bull-dozer. So in one church we have both sweet and bitter, true and false, Christian and hypocrite. The tragedy is that one hypocrite can undo and destroy the work of a hundred faithful Christians. This is Just-A-Minute.
I try not to judge but when I see a bird that looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, has webbed feet like a duck and hangs around in the company of ducks; it is difficult to dispute the conclusion that it must be a duck. Someone has said, “Bird of a feather flock together.” People tend to gravitate to where they feel most comfortable. When the apostle Peter was released from prison, he didn’t go to the local tavern or a nightclub, he headed to a prayer-meeting. He knew where he belonged. On the other hand, when I see church folk who are more comfortable mixing it up with the world than with their brethren, I wonder about the genuineness of their profession. The apostle John says, “We know that we have passed from life to death, because we love the brethren.” If we don’t love the brethren, maybe it is because we belong to the other crowd. This is Just-A-Minute
If you think life is already hurry-scurry, helter-skelter and hustle-bustle, now I hear that they are coming up with more ways to speed things up so we can fall further behind. At least that is how it goes for me. The faster I go, the further behind I get. This new idea for moving from one place to another is to stick us in an air-propelled tube, just like your local bank uses in the drive through window. Well, I’ve got news for them, I’m not going to fit into one of those tubes. However you want to say it: there is more of me than can fi or there is less of the tube than I need! Then there are the motorized boots that the Russians are touting. They enable the wearer to take steps up to nine feet and at speeds up to twenty-five miles an hour. That is a giant step forward for mankind. So here I am taking a Sominex to get through the night and an Alka-Seltzer to get through the day; all I need is to increase my race-horse break-neck pace. Hold on. I just stumbled on a word from God: “Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him.” This is Just-A-Minute.
One of the greatest hindrances to the salvation of some men is not their badness, but their goodness. Jesus declared, blessed are the poor in spirit. The word for poor literally means bankrupt, destitute. It is the same word used to describe Lazarus the beggar, who was absolutely dependent on other’s kindness for his survival. So then, what is Jesus saying? Jesus is telling us that we must learn to see ourselves as we really are, not against the backdrop of other people but against the backdrop of what God created us to be. Instead of thinking, “I’m not so bad” and reasoning that is good enough, we should see ourselves as totally inadequate having nothing to offer God but our spiritual beggarliness. Only then are we ready to throw ourselves upon God’s mercy. Perhaps it would help to remember that God created us to do good, not evil. When we sin, we demonstrate that we are broken. It is like an electric can opener that no longer works. What do you do? You throw it away and get another one. The can opener was made to open cans and when it quits doing so, it no longer serves its purpose and is ready for the rubbish pile. God created us to do good. It is only by God’s mercy that we are salvaged from the rubbish heap. This is Just-A-Minute.
I’ve been told I’m too simple to get it; that it is far more complicated than I have suggested it is. You say, “What are you talking about?” Suppose I had a farm with half black cows and half white cows. If the black cows were the only ones that reproduced, in a few generations there wouldn’t be many white ones left. Now, substitute people for cows. It the norm is for gays and lesbians to produce no children or at least fewer children, would not the genetic trend be a decline in that behavior? I’m no geneticist, but some things are simply common sense, and common sense says this isn’t a matter of chromosomes; it is a matter of learned behavior! Moreover, if it can be learned, it can be unlearned. If it is an attraction, it can be controlled. If it is a proclivity, it can be rained in. As for me, I’m attracted to money, but that doesn’t give me the right to rob a bank! Some behavior is right and some wrong. It is a matter of choice; it is an issue of self-determination.
What should be the proper response by faithful Christians who respect the word of God towards the increasing acceptance of same-sex marriage? I suppose some judge that I hate gays and lesbians or at the very least hold them in contempt. But don’t hasten your prosecution. I believe that we need to preach the love of God for all, as well as encourage righteousness and purity in every phase of life. I understand that some tell us they are troubled with same-sex attraction. To these we should offer emotional and spiritual support, just as we do to others who struggle with alcohol, anger, or any other sinful proclivity. But what we mustn’t do is cave-in to the claims of Hollywood, the ACLU, left wing activists, Supreme Court justices, the president, and even some churches. . If God declares a certain behavior deviant and perverse, let not man claim it is normal and acceptable. This is Just-A-Minute.
Some time back I sold the farm and moved to town. I traded ten acres for a subdivision; plowed dirt for concrete and asphalt. A wise man once told me, “Children grow far better in plowed dirt than concrete.” I believe he was on the right track. Big cities have always been the center of sordid behavior and compromised values. Whether Rome of old, Paris of recent or New York of present; I’ll take small town living anytime. The trouble is big city living isn’t staying in the big cities! There was a day when small town folks had time to loiter and lounge. Today they post “no loitering” signs and the only thing you get from a lounge is a hangover and a headache. When is the last time you simply paused to think, meditate and pray. No, we are in too big a hurry; late for this, tardy for that! We may sing “take time to be holy”, but few of us do. This is Just-A-Minute.